Military Policing and Ethics

Welcome to the Military Policing and Justice Ethics Blog. This new feature of JusticeAcademy.org is specifically designed to provide a forum where members of the profession can address the contemporary issues of the day. This blog is hosted by Liz Cass. Her professional experience includes twenty years of service as a law enforcement and security professional with United States Navy. Liz’s academic achievement include a baccalaureate degree in fraud investigation, a Master of Science in criminal justice, and an MBA from Norwich University. She is a prolific author and her writings have been published in the Virginia College Journal of Law and Justice, the Justice Academy Journal, and she serves as a member of the Board of Governors. You can email her with your comments at lizcass@justiceacademy.org.

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12 thoughts on “Military Policing and Ethics”

  1. Protect and Serve
    The role of a military police officer varies on each base or ship.
    Local and state law enforcement officer’s has laws that need to
    be followed and their job is to make sure they are. Military
    police do the same; we have regulation and articles of the
    Uniform Code of Military Justice that have to be followed by
    every enlisted and reserve member in the Armed Forces. The
    role of military police is to maintain order and discipline
    onboard military bases and ships both overseas and within the
    United States. Military police don’t typically see much crime as
    the regular LEOs would out in town.

    Military police usually don’t have the same type of stress as
    local and state LEOs would in that we are usually guaranteed
    to come home after a shift. Even though our role as military
    police is mild compared to our uniformed brothers and sisters,
    we take our job just as serious as they do, and have often
    enjoyed a camaraderie in working closely with local, state, and
    federal law enforcement agencies when necessary. I
    thoroughly enjoyed my 20 years as military police, and would
    do it all over again.

  2. Safety
    One of the things we learned at the Joint Law Enforcement
    Academy was routine traffic stops. Sad to say, after years of
    being on the job a lot of officers get complacent when they
    think they are performing a routine traffic stop. I see so many
    officers getting hurt or killed at what they consider to be a
    routine traffic stop. One of the things the instructors taught
    us was that nothing was routine. Every situation had to
    potential to go incredibly wrong in just a few seconds.

    One must never let their guard down when conducting
    anything pertaining to law enforcement. Look at every
    situation as potentially harmful or hazardous and you can be
    prepared for any scenario. Make a list of possible problems
    one could have on patrol and how the situation can be handled.
    One must stay vigilant at all times – treat everyone as a
    potential suspect and ensure backup isn’t far away. The
    instructors taught us if we felt unsafe in a situation make sure
    dispatch knew exactly where you were and ask if there were
    any other units in the area that could respond if necessary.
    One cannot be too safe.

  3. Military Police and Correctional Officers

    Another difference there is between regular law enforcement
    and military police is that we can do double duty as a
    corrections officer. Naval vessels have a brig onboard that is
    operational during periods of underway. It is not operational
    while in domestic port as there is a brig on the naval base. The
    reason for putting personnel in the brig is to segregate those
    that are considered harmful to themselves and others and
    cannot be in with the ship’s general population. Placing
    individuals temporarily in the brig is for their own safe keeping.
    Military police are able to attend a correctional officer school
    and receive a diploma to be part of brig staff onboard a ship -but only on a ship. Military Police in the Navy do not work in
    the brigs on naval installations. And, while onboard ship, those
    military police working as MPs are not to work as MPs while
    they are brig staff; it is considered a conflict of interest. There
    are other designated personnel that are part of ship’s company
    that have attended a brig certification school and are able to
    run the brig alongside those military police taken off their
    primary duties and temporarily designated brig staff.

  4. Interview/Interrogation

    One of the things I learned how to do while being
    military police was the difference between interviewing
    a victim/witness and interrogating a suspect. Interviewing
    is done in a different manner from interrogating; you are
    asking questions of the victim/witness that will help with
    the case, and with an interrogation you are trying to get the
    suspect to tell you what really happened. Interviewing is
    more formal tactic that is used in the event of an incident
    that is more detailed than just a field interview completed
    at the scene. The quality of an interview/interrogation will
    greatly determine the solvability of a case and perhaps
    a successful prosecution, if the individual is charged with a
    crime.

    There is a certain technique that must be used during an
    interview with victims/witnesses as opposed to interro-
    gating a suspect. Getting someone to talk is always dicey,
    depending on the situation, and sometimes with victims and
    witnesses their thoughts are often jumbled and scattered.
    It is the job of the interviewer to help the victim and/or
    witness gather their thoughts coherently and project them
    into a rational statement. When it comes to interrogating
    suspects, you need to be a little bit more firm when talking
    to them, but not too rough so that they don’t clam up. The
    one good thing about being in the military is when you’re
    charging someone with a UCMJ violation, one cannot “lawyer
    up”. Some have a knack for interview and interrogation and
    some do not. It can be a very worthwhile job.

  5. Criminal Justice Ethics

    Ethics is a standard of behavior, whether in law
    enforcement, business, finance, etc. Everyone
    has a code in which to live by professionally.
    While certain ethics violations may not be
    criminal in nature, it can certainly stain one’s
    reputation both personally and professionally.
    Word of mouth travels fast when it comes to an
    ethics violation, and most people do not want to
    be anywhere near the accused when the fallout
    comes.

    One things LEOs have to remember, both military
    and other agencies is that we are not above the law;
    we are to uphold the follow the law same as any other
    citizen. There are those individuals who feel their
    reputation precedes them and their word is not to
    be questioned. That is all good, as long as their
    reputation is intact and above reproach. When
    it starts to slip, and the question of ethics comes
    into question, that is when we must be our most
    diligent to ensure we are not one of those who lets
    the badge go to their head. We are not above reproach
    and if anything, need to strictly adhere to the law
    more than anyone. Our reputation follows us our
    entire career, and sometimes after. We need to make
    sure it is without blemish and stays that way.

  6. Academy Training

    When I first applied to the Joint Law Enforcement
    Academy to become a Master-at-Arms, or Military
    Police (Navy), one of the criteria to apply was I had
    to be of a certain rank and with it, time in service.
    The Navy felt in order for the MA’s to be taken
    seriously and viewed with authority, the applicants
    needed to have some understanding of the how
    the military worked and at the same time be able to
    impose authority. Other branches of the military
    E4’s become NCOs, or Non-Commissioned Officers,
    and there is a lot of responsibility and authority that
    goes along with that rank. The Navy felt in order to
    be effective as law enforcement officers we also
    needed to have the maturity in which to make
    proper decisions concerning apprehension,
    detaining an individual, interview/interrogation, etc.
    The typical E5 in the Navy usually has at least
    4 years active service and yearly evaluations that
    allow the individual, along with a test, to be
    advanced to the next highest pay grade.

    For criminal justice academies throughout the
    country applicants can be 18 or 21, depending on
    the state. Some of those applicants are mature
    enough to make a split second decision on what
    to do; most are not. Those just graduating from
    the academy are placed with a senior LEO or FTO
    to train them on what needs to be done and how to
    conduct themselves while on patrol. Unfortunately,
    with some state budget cuts, a lot of that training
    gets interrupted by real life situations. It’s a very
    stressful job, having to learn on the fly like that,
    and some will say the new grads will either sink or
    swim. It’s a very different society now than when I
    went through the academy – hopefully the PDs will
    gain back the people’s trust and are able to show not
    all cops are corrupt – most just want to protect and
    serve the people and do the job properly.

  7. Asset Protection

    Part of the job of military police is also the protection
    of government personnel and facilities. Part of our
    post watch on a military base is checking the perimeter
    and all doors and windows of buildings. The military
    has quite a lot that needs protecting, from equipment
    to research and development to personnel files all
    which are all considered to be assets of the
    government. The military has security measures in
    place in which to protect those assets by means of
    secured doors and windows, alarm systems, and
    security cameras. Those cameras are monitored
    by the Security Office and security personnel that
    are on duty on any particular evening or weekend.
    During the day, the asset protection falls to the staff
    that occupy the building during the day.

    Asset protection for military is different from the
    private or public sector in that no one can take the
    military to court over a disagreement about the
    ownership of those assets. Civilian counterparts will
    insure their assets for a certain amount to ensure their
    safety and depending on the value of the assets they
    may also hire civilian contract security to guard their
    facilities. Another reason why military personnel
    sometimes go into the public safety sector upon
    separation from the military – we’ve been doing the
    job for a while. Military personnel understand the
    importance of asset and personnel protection in a
    way that no typical civilian would unless we equate
    the need to protect our family and homes the same as
    government or public property.

  8. PTSD

    PTSD in the field isn’t becoming more prevalent,
    it’s just being talked about more. Everyone that
    has ever served in the military or other high risk
    job such as police and fire have suffered the effects
    of PTSD at some point or another. Some handle
    it better than others and for some it is a daily struggle
    trying to unsee and unfeel what we’ve encountered
    on the job. Some compartmentalize and deal with
    the trauma in their own time; some can’t help it as
    hits them when they least expect it. Part of learning
    to deal with PTSD, I have found, is recognizing the
    triggers and using those triggers to your advantage
    on the job.

    I think most of what helps me keep mine in check
    is keeping things in perspective. True, no one wants
    to have to discharge their firearm on the job; sometimes
    it is necessary in the order of self defense. None of us
    like killing another individual but sometimes it just
    happens. Keeping that in perspective of what it
    actually is I think helps others deal with the issue.
    Loud noises can also trigger some that have served
    in the military but if they learn to distinguish those
    noises it can help deal with them. So many of those
    that are in these high stress jobs do not go through
    any type of trauma training prior to entering the field
    or in the case of military heading overseas for
    assignment or deployment. These days some inner
    city work can be as bad as overseas assignments.

    I think some type of trauma training should be done
    in academies and military branches to prepare these
    individuals what may or may not be encountered
    while on the job – it may actually help them deal with
    it better in the long run, and perhaps head off the
    PTSD before it truly starts.

  9. Military personnel are trained to be disciplined and
    have great work ethic. When military members leave
    the military some will gravitate towards law
    enforcement or some other form of public service.
    There are so many similarities between the two;
    most military members have stood security or fire
    watch at some point, and have an attitude that
    employers find appealing. All military members
    will have some degree of small arms proficiency,
    which also makes them much easier to hire for
    police, sheriff, and/or private security companies.

    Military may also gravitate towards this line of work
    because they understand the structure that goes
    along with the wearing of a uniform and being a
    part of a team so it is an easy transition from
    military to civilian sector. They don’t have to be
    monitored as closely as someone just entering into
    the field for the first time because they have
    already had some degree of training. There is also
    a level of comfort for military-types when entering
    this type of employment because so many are also
    prior military so there is a solidarity that is shared
    and understood.

  10. Situational Awareness

    Being in the technical age, we are now a nation of smart
    phones that constantly require our attention. People
    no longer have conversations at dinner table; everyone
    is too busy checking phones for messages from work,
    school, friends, family, etc. While at times these actions
    are necessary, most times they can be a safety hazard.
    We’ve all seem the newspaper articles about traffic
    accidents on the rise because someone was texting
    or checking messages on their phone. This is getting
    to be quite dangerous in that no one is truly aware of
    their surroundings. They are oblivious to the imminent
    dangers around them. Sad to say, we are also in the age of
    heightened terrorist activity and people must be aware of what is going on around them, for the safety of themselves
    and their family.

    As Police Officers, we are trained to be aware of our
    surroundings 24/7; we never let our guard down. It is
    hard to put the phone down when we are so used to
    looking at it on a regular basis or constantly asked to
    look something up while on the job. Situational
    awareness is becoming quite an issue with people
    driving, people walking, just paying attention to their
    immediate surroundings. People crossing a busy street,
    not realizing the “Do Not Walk” sign is lit and they are
    busy with their phone and probably do not realize
    someone coming towards them in a vehicle may also be
    busy on their phone. Situational awareness is a huge
    safety issue both on and off the job. Being safe and being
    vigilant is something we must all strive for.

  11. Law Enforcement Liaison

    It is important for military police to have a good working
    relationship with the local, state, and federal law
    enforcement agencies. The majority of military bases are
    situated within city limits and while these agencies do
    have jurisdiction on the base, it is considered a professional
    courtesy to meet with the Security Officer once on base
    and explain their reason for being there. The dispatcher
    at the Public Safety Office on base usually gets a phone
    call prior to the officer arriving at the gate. Military
    Police (Navy) do not have the powers to arrest; only
    the power to detain until another agency takes those
    individual(s) into custody for questioning, depending on
    the charges, or if that individual is military, released to
    the individual’s superior.

    In order to have a good working relationship with the
    other agencies, one must be able to work effectively
    with those agencies and with the people within the
    agencies. Having a good relationship is important in
    that it will also give us access to these resources that
    other agencies can offer us. Being able to rely on them,
    and vice versa, sometimes made doing our jobs that much
    easier. We may have information they need and it is
    always in the best interest of public safety to share that
    information.

    When I was stationed in Portsmouth, VA., the back side
    of the base abutted a known drug area. Together with
    the Portsmouth PD and Virginia DEA they were able to
    finally bring down the crack house that they had under
    surveillance for months. We were able to train our
    facility cameras outward towards that area and were
    able to submit the footage as evidence.

  12. One of the reasons why I chose law enforcement while in the Navy was not only to Protect and Serve, but I was really tired of the corrupt LEOs I had already come into contact with during my first 10 years on active duty. I knew that I could make a difference and I chose to get actively involved. A very satisfying career that ended too quickly.

    The one mistake I’ve seen LEOs make is letting the badge go to their head. Being Law Enforcement means we have to be above reproach; all eyes watch us and those that enforce
    the laws should also be able to uphold the law. So many I’ve come into contact with thought they were above the law – only to have it catch up with them later. My advice to anyone
    entering law enforcement as a chosen field: make sure your record is spotless and always act within ethical means. Do your job right the first time and you won’t have to go back
    to make corrections.

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